The third day of our 3-day Camel Trek came too fast. We loved our first and second days in the Thar Desert, and this last day was equally a blast. Throughout the day, we explored Khaba Fort, passed by drought-impacted fields, and I led my own camel!
Bruno and I slowly woke up on that third morning in the desert, as the morning temperatures started to increase around the Khaba sand dunes. We shed a few blankets and headed for our morning chai while we enjoyed the views of the Khaba dunes.
Our last morning breakfast lasted longer than the previous ones, a sign we did not want to leave the arid environment. But Punja had the camels ready in no time, and we reluctantly left. Happy to be back on the camels again – though my bottom and tights cringed a bit. Sad to leave paradise.
We stopped mid-morning at the Khaba Fort, an impressive 13th- century citadel from the Paliwal Brahmins, standing on a rocky top and overlooking an open valley. Right beneath the fort stood the remnants of Kuldhara, an old village that was deserted in the late 1800s for reasons unknown. Some speculated it was because of the drought. Other talked about the atrocities and wedding demands of a local diwan. In any case, the 80 families that lived there packed and left almost overnight.
Today the fort and village are mostly in ruins, but the fort is being renovated. Regardless of the state of the monuments, this is a large complex that is worth checking, wandering through the ancient streets and picturing the past life of its inhabitants.
The fort displays a few of its past glory, with a few statues of musicians, pots, and other centuries-old artifacts. A rare chance to glance into the past…
As we left Khaba Fort, we passed by old tombs, many centuries old. These belong to the Paliwal Brahmins who once inhabited the fort and managed the whole region.
Drought & Dry Fields
Our final day stretched through the lunar scenery beyond the fort, but as we headed towards the end of our 3-day loop, signs of civilizations appeared here and there. A little house. A well. Tire tracks on the dirt roads. A village. Plowed fields. Such a field was our rest stop for our lunch. I helped Punja with the preparation, cutting produce and peeling garlic, continuing what had been my duty since the first meal.
We enjoyed a last lunch in the desert. Settled under the shades of a few trees, Punja regaled us once again with a great lunch. We especially enjoyed the potato chips made desert-style! Just the three of us, and the three camels, the peaceful setting lasted a little while as we knew it was our last in the Thar Desert.
Bruno was not the only one relaxing under the shade, while Laloo and Papoo both chilled and munched as well. Lunch break for everyone!
Herding in the Thar Desert
We questioned Punja about the area, which seemed to be ready for farming. Indeed it turned out that a little rain a few months back in early November motivated the farmers to plow and seed their fields, only for the rain to stop within a few days, and never returning since then. It was saddening to see the dry, dead fields, a reminder of how crucial access to water was. The villagers had little resources aside, and it was a definite blow to lose their harvests.
The only other income and sustenance were herding, and a herder with his herd of goats grazing nearby was a reminder of this. The goats came to check on our bags, smelling the camels’ feeds, and we had to chase them down before they ripped the packages apart.
Handling My Camel
Our last meal devoured, it was time to pack the camels again. Punja and I went to retrieve Laloo and Papoo and felt like I had done this all my life. I returned with Papoo and managed to get him to lay down by myself. As a thank-you, I scratched behind his ears – he looked surprised and reluctant about this at first, they slowly changed their minds, and I could feel the weight of their heads pushing on my knuckles. Up we went, up the camels went, and off we all went.
The last three hours brought us back to the human world. More villages, a few cars, a paved road, cemented water wells, a couple of fences, and windmills in the distance. We also passed further remnants of Brahmani heritage, with ancient tombs standing high and tall on the edge of nearby cliffs.
Out of nowhere, we noted dust columns were rising in the sky and saw our pickup 4WD heading our way. It was funny to see how accurately the driver found us among the arid desert. Punja had been on the phone a couple of times in the last 30 minutes, so we figured he was giving direction. Bruno and I had a laugh picturing Punja describing the road. “Turn left after the 3rd bush, right over the rocky ridge, and left again after the 3rd camel poop”.
Farewell to our Trekking Companions
Too soon we made our last descent with our camels and grabbed our bags. I scratched Laloo, Papoo, and Big Kona one last time, naively thinking we had bonded in the last three days. Though I would not necessarily miss some of the scents coming out of the gentle beasts, they had been our companions through our desert experience. It felt like saying goodbye to old friends. Even more so when we took our leave from Punja, heartfully thanking him for the fantastic time he made sure we had. The quick return to Jaisalmer left us pensive. While our bodies were back in the busy town, our minds were still in the desert.
This 3-day camel trek was sponsored and in partnership with Trotters Independent Tours & Travels Thank you for the terrific opportunity! Our opinion is our own and is not impacted by this partnership.
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